A sexual abuse survivor, Russel Dawson, is bringing a support group for male victims to North Devon, the group is called moMENtum.
A support group founded by a sexual abuse survivor is joining forces with a successful counselling service to bring care and help to North Devon victims.
Russel Dawson now lives in Braunton but co-founded moMENtum, a peer support group for non-offending adult male survivors of child sexual abuse, when he was based in Exeter.
The 48-year-old was a victim of recently-released North Devon paedophile policeman Danny Bryant, and said working with the group for the past five years had helped him when he was struggling with life and with mental health problems.
Russel said: “There is help out there, it’s difficult to access sometimes, especially for male survivors. Finding the safe way of getting that help is important. If something bad happens when they first disclose what has happened they are likely to just shut down again and not get help.
“There are regional and national organisations designed to help people who have been sexually abused in childhood so it’s worth doing a bit of research and contact someone who can do the appropriate work, rather than someone who might say the wrong thing. It can be difficult for other people to deal with.
“All you need is someone who is prepared to listen, and won’t minimise it or say ‘don’t worry, it happened ages ago’. Someone who understands the effect it is still having now.
“If you get the right help, it is definitely worthwhile. I was struggling with life and with mental health problems. I have been fortunate to have got the help I have had and if you can get help it is definitely worth working on but it is not a walk in the park.”
The groups at moMENtum gather together with shared experiences and meet as equals. The service is self-funded and helps talk through feelings of shame, anxiety, depression and a variety of mental health problems which stem from abuse, including eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction.
Russel Dawson said being in a room with people who have all had to carry shame for decades without telling people and hearing them say the same things others have thought for so long is really powerful.
He said: “When you realise you’re not the only one, it really resonates that you are going through the exact same things, the aftermath. People who have been abused shouldn’t be ashamed, the shame should belong to the abuser.
“These mental difficulties are perfectly normal human reaction to abnormal circumstances. Anyone who had been through extreme circumstances would respond in the same way to such extreme pressure.
“We know how important it is to get help, I was fortunate to get help, and you can get it in a variety of ways. It is life-changing to get the right sort of help.”
Russel Dawson is keen that moMENtum could link to female survivors and Karen Black’s North Devon counselling service Survivors Alliance North Devon CIC (SAND).
Karen, herself a survivor of sexual abuse who waived her automatic right to anonymity, set up the counselling company in August 2016, and has already had 13 referrals, averaging out at two per month.
Karen said: “I worked with Russel and he was really my inspiration, he gave me the little push I needed to go ahead to start this up. He and his wife are both wonderful people and have helped me so much, including doing a massive amount of networking.”
2017 has seen Karen receive weekly enquiries from community centres, GP surgeries, colleagues, local police and self-referrals for her services, seeing the project outgrow the free space time that Slee Blackwell Solicitors in Barnstaple had offered.
Though the team are fundraising, Karen would be grateful to any group or individual who would consider committing to a monthly payment of perhaps £10 or £20 to help the project go forward.
Anyone looking to join a moMENtum group in North Devon or donate to SAND can call Karen on 07763 617 693.
If you need support now, these numbers may be of help:
The Samaritans (24 hours) 08457 90 90 90
National Association of People Abused in Childhood 10am to 9pm Monday to Thursday; 10am to 6pm Friday: 0808 801 0331
Rape and Sexual Abuse Helpline: Monday to Sunday 7pm to 10pm 08088 000 188
Survivors UK www.survivorsuk.org Monday and Tuesday 6pm to 9pm; Wednesday 12pm to 2:30pm and 6pm to 9pm; Thursday 12pm to 2:30pm
DevonAlliance working with Childhood Sexual Abuse
For anyone in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and who would like to speak to somebody about our support service, please contact First Step.